Process, Goals, and Outcome

The CGSB is in the process of drafting service dog standards that will have a very negative effect on guide dog handlers.

When any situation has gone off the rails with undesired consequences, it is important to look at process and determine the original goals, and see if the apparent outcome matches what those goals were. What was Veterans Affairs objective for service dog standards? What is Veterans Affairs position on PTSD dogs and service dogs for emotional support for vets?

The following two sources point out some very specific initiatives. It is clear from this how the CGSB original objective may have gotten blown up with mission creep possibly by self-interest groups at the table or by people who simply did not understand the objectives.

The following source outlines some specific objectives for Veterans Affairs pertaining to service dogs and PTSD dogs for vets.

In part, it says:

  • “The mental health and well-being of Veterans and their families is a priority for Veterans Affairs Canada. We continue to monitor research on emerging and innovative therapies to best support the health and well-being of Veterans and their families.
  • We have heard from members of the Veterans community that this is an important issue for them.
  • We are currently funding three research initiatives related to service animals, two for equine therapy and one for service dogs, and are actively supporting the development of national standards for service dogs.
  • Our government launched a pilot study in 2015 through the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research to evaluate the use of psychiatric service dogs to support Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Findings are expected to be included in a Phase 1 report, to be completed in November 2017, and a Phase 2 (final) report, to be completed in July 2018.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada has contracted with the Canadian General Standards Board to establish a set of national standards to provide assurance that the psychiatric service dogs being provided to Veterans are properly trained and meet standardized behaviour requirements. At this time, it is expected that standards development will be completed by December 2017.”

VA is researching the efficacy of emotional support dogs for vets, determining if they can perform tasks that qualify them as service dogs. The original mandate for CGSB seems to be to develop standards for psychiatric dogs only.

The following CBC news article describes the anecdotal evidence for PTSD dogs for vets, the lack of money to train them, and the need for solid scientific evidence that they are effective in the treatment of PTSD. It is clear that there is a need.

In the article, Brian Archer, founder of Vancouver-based Citadel Canine Society, refers to the pilot study underway by a University of Laval researcher involving service dogs and veterans “He thinks national standards are needed for the training and certification of service dogs, rules similar to legislation which currently exists in B.C. and Alberta.”

In British Columbia, there are two ways for dog and handler teams to be certified under the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act:

  1. Receive a trained dog from an accredited school
  2. Pass a public safety test

Accredited schools are those affiliated with International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) for guide dogs, or Assistance Dogs International (ADI) for service dogs.

Information about the public safety test can be found at the following link:

“This assessment examines the temperament and disposition of the guide or service dog in a general public setting such as a shopping mall. This test will be administered as a real-life scenario in order to imitate the daily routine of a dog/handler team.

The purpose of this test is to ensure the dog has good public etiquette, is well-behaved and is unobtrusive in public places. It ensures that the handler has control over the dog at all times, that the dog is safe to be in public, and is able to demonstrate the highest standards of training as expected for guide and service dogs.”

The Public Safety test is not onerous, and is very reasonable. It does not infringe on human rights or privacy rights. If this is an example of the type of standards that were sought, then the CGSB has gravely overstepped its mission.

It is time to scrap the CGSB Service Dog Standards, rethink the process, and work toward the original goals of getting psychiatric PTSD dogs in the hands of veterans.

Jean Menzies